The saying, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” makes many people feel condemned to failure if they didn’t do so well when first meeting somebody, like in a job interview or a social situation, and it is true that just the way we’re hardwired, we make very fast impressions and decisions about somebody that we’re meeting for the first time. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t recover if you stumble in those first few seconds. And the best evidence of this, by the way, that the first impression doesn’t always last is sometimes we’re initially charmed by somebody when first meeting them, but they can quickly show us they are somebody that we shouldn’t trust, and we can change our mind about them, still in that same first meeting.
If you do feel like you’re coming across poorly in the first few seconds of the initial part of a meeting, there are three things you can do to turn that around.
First, keep your focus on the other person. When we make a social gaffe, we tend to start criticizing ourselves and kind of turn inward, and that can cause us to lose focus and attention on the other person, potentially miss what they’re saying or other important parts of that interaction. So, you want to stay focused on their words, their tone of voice, the body language and facial expressions, and continue to stay connected to them. It could be a little bit of a challenge, but you want to remind yourself to do that.
Second, smile. Smiling is not just contagious in the sense that people often smile right away as soon as we do, but it also impacts us. It tells our brain, tells our mind, that we’re okay and things are going just fine. And that kind of mood elevator can be extremely important.
Third, you want to genuinely look for ways of being helpful to the other person. That sends a signal to your brain to be on alert for that, how you can actually help them, and even being in a helpful frame of mind is important. It’s a tremendous value of mine to look for ways that I can be helpful to others.
Although it’s true that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, it might be the second impression where all the action is.